Decarbonising Australia’s Electricity Supply: The role for Small Modular Reactors


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I delivered this presentation to the Australian Frontiers in Science conference in late 2012. This presentation makes the case for the important role of Small Modular Reactors (SMR) in the decarbonisation of Australia electricity

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  • You may need more detail on how I have reached these numbers, and I am happy to provide the references.
  • You may need more detail on how I have reached these numbers, and I am happy to provide the references.
  • You may need more detail on how I have reached these numbers, and I am happy to provide the references.
  • Decarbonising Australia’s Electricity Supply: The role for Small Modular Reactors

    1. 1. Decarbonising Australia’s Electricity Supply The role for small modular nuclear reactors Ben Heard Founder – Decarbonise SA Director – ThinkClimate Consulting
    2. 2. The climate change problem actually looks like this • Greenhouse gas accumulates • Temperature forcing builds • Tipping points are real • Avoiding dangerous climate change is a zero-sum game 0 500,000 1,000,000 1,500,000 2,000,000 2,500,000 3,000,000 3,500,000 4,000,000 tCO2-e GHG accumulation from Australian electricity sector 1990-2010 (Adapted from AGEIS data) Carbon Budget
    3. 3. We DON’T have a plan • 5% reduction by 2020? • 50% reduction by 2050? – Significant contribution from carbon capture and storage – Significant contribution from geothermal – Massive purchases of offsets from fast growing developing economies • 20% RET? • First signs of downturn in energy demand? • High penetration of wind in South Australia? This all misses the point
    4. 4. The pathway matters as much as the destination Nuclear mimics fossil – but without the GHG Selecting “No” guarantees an inferior result
    5. 5. Hard barriers to Australian nuclear High capital and lag on return If the CEO of, say, Origin Energy said to the board “I’ve got a great idea. Let’s spend $5bn of the company’s money, for which we will not start seeing a return for at least 5 years” he would be laughed at. In fact he would probably be sacked. Tony Owen, UCL School of Energy and Resources Size of single generating unit • Single load loss of up to 650 MW could be supported by the existing transmission network in SA (Electranet Annual Planning Report 2012) Reactor Generating Capacity Areva NP EPR 1700 MWe Westinghouse AP1000 1200 MWe GE Hitachi/Toshiba ABWR 1350 MWe Gidropress AES-2006 1200 MWe Korea HNP APR-1400 1450 MWe Mitsubishi APWR 1500 MWe GE Hitachi ESBWR 1600 Mwe Enhanced CANDU6 740 MWe
    6. 6. Solutions? Barrier Solution Large-up front capital Direct capital subsidy Loan guarantee Low-cost financing Lag on return Streamline approvals Contract all construction with purchase Size of single generating unit Reinforcement of interconnections New large demand S M R OR
    7. 7. • Small Modular Reactors • Ranging in size from approx 25 MWe (nuclear battery!) up to approximately 300MWe • Several potential technologies • Light water reactors • Gas –cooled reactors • Metal cooled fast reactors What is SMR? Steam Turbine Generator Condenser Containment Water-Filled Pool Below Ground J. Nylander and M. Cohen NSSS Toshiba 10-50MWHyperion 25MWe fast reactor NuScale
    8. 8. Why is SMR so powerful? Production • Constructed & installed quickly • Factory built, ship or train to site • Production line manufacturing • Avoids bottleneck in ultra-heavy forged components (two suppliers globally) • Mitigates need for local skilled labour Cost • Reduced up front cost (i.e. approx $750m for 180MWe) • Faster flows of revenue Connection • Potential for incremental additions • Same site, same design – simple approvals • Direct replacement of existing fossil generation Safety • Passive safety easily achieved Appeal • Off-grid baseload potential • Fit easily into most electricity grids • Below-grade installations (underground) • On-site underground waste containment Sources: US Dept Commerce 2011; Irwin, T. 2012; Cunningham, N. 2012)
    9. 9. B&W/Bechtel, $400M in development funding from US DoE
    10. 10. Example application- decarbonising South Australia Playford Power Station c 1960 240 Mwe 2009 emissions 1.77 million tCO2-e Single B&W mPower SMR 180 Mwe 90% capacity factor 3 year refuelling cycle. 60 year design life Emissions? 0 tCO2-e
    11. 11. GEH S-PRISM 311 MWe IFR module “Study finds waste-fuelled reactor feasible for UK The report includes a vote of confidence by analysts DBD Ltd, which says that in terms of fuel fabrication, reactor operation, and fuel storage, there are "no fundamental impediments" to licensability in the UK .July 2012 . Example application - Swapping unwanted Pu for zero-carbon energy Fast Breeder Reactor •Metal fuel •Liquid metal coolant •Runs at close to atmospheric pressure •Full passive safety •Breeds fissile isotopes from fertile isotopes i.e turns 99% of nuclear waste into new fuel and uses it to make energy
    12. 12. Proof of Concept? •Nimitz Class, largest war ship in the world •Propelled by two General Electric pressurised water reactors driving four turbines of 194MW.
    13. 13. Ben Heard- Director, ThinkClimate Consulting Founder, Decarbonise SA W: E: @BenThinkClimate DecarboniseSA The commercialisation of SMR provides a pathway to greatly accelerated decarbonisation of fossil-dependent electricity supplies Conclusion